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Posts Tagged ‘lessons


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This video is not the first resource to outline how air and water pollution have dropped since the implementation of COVID-19 measures like home-based learning, work from home, and travel restrictions.

The interviewees in the video emphasised that the pandemic was not a good way to check our harm on the environment. But they also wondered how we might change our collective behaviours when we resume normalcy.

Might we learn to manage with less? Might employers and employees opt to telecommute more? Might schools and education institutes learn the value of going online?

The answers to these and other related questions present opportunities for us to show what we have learnt and to change our ways. So will we?

I share perspectives from two authors, one from higher education and another who focused on K-12 schooling.

In his Inside Higher Ed piece, John Warner (appropriate surname) warned us:

… all this is happening midyear against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

The idea that we are running any kind of systematic experiment is, to use a nonscientific term, bonkers. We are in a period of emergency distance instruction, not online learning.

Warner suggested that we take the opportunity to reflect on and to reshape our values. We might start this process by asking ourselves WHO we teach and WHY we teach in certain ways.

In his two-part series [1] [2], Larry Cuban suggested that in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, parents of school children would most likely appreciate the “custodial function of schools”. I agree. In Singapore, we like school so much that we send our kids to school after school, i.e., tuition.

Cuban also posited that the efficiency of e-learning might tempt a cash-strapped or downsizing systems to consider e-learning over face-to-face classes. However, he expected such initiatives to “remain peripheral to the core work of teachers meeting their students daily”. In other words, let the “e” in e-learning go back to being emergency or extra.

Cuban was not optimistic that an intense period of e-learning would move the needle on changing the duration of school days, terms, or semesters. People who argue that competency-based learning should supercede time-based instruction will keep shouting themselves hoarse because a) school hours are childcare hours, and b) maintaining e-learning systems is expensive.

What do I think?

I think that if the duration of our response to pandemic extended to critical examination periods, we will be forced to rely on project work, cumulative continual assessments, and daily work.

Exams might be disrupted and even cancelled, but they are likely to return because we focus on what is easy to measure (short-term retention, grades) instead of what is difficult to pursue (long term learning, portfolios).

In short, I expect most people to heave a collective sigh of relief and revert to old habits. But I hold out hope that enough of us will change the rules that little bit more so that we are that little bit better.

You need only take a few minutes to observe how kids and some young adults use their bags and other property to reserve tables in food courts or fast food joints. So I wonder if parents or schools have not taught kids to value their belongings.

I resumed my teaching semester at a local university recently. During lunch, an undergrad sharing my table left his iPhone X in his place. If he had done this anywhere else in the world, he would be an ex-iPhone owner.

Maybe I am just getting old and judgemental. But maybe I am right and should offer what I once taught were unnecessary life lessons.

Then again, maybe I do not need to teach anything for someone else to learn. Experiencing loss is a harsh but effective lesson.

I started using Padlet when it was still WallWisher. I appreciate its reliability, user-friendliness, and growing feature set.

I have shared previously the different ways I use Padlet for my courses and workshops.

How I use Padlet.

Recently I repurposed a new template — an org-chart — to simulate a concept map. That “connected” look provided a better visual message to an activity that I have relied on for years.

However, that simple change was a disaster. I found out in class that only I had edit-rights to the connected notes; my students could not edit the notes assigned to them. In highlight, I should have tested the new template in incognito browser mode.

Thankfully, a student suggested a workaround: Since they could add new editable notes, they could slide them over my templated notes. This worked nicely.

My reminders from this experience are to 1) not take thorough testing for granted, and 2) always consider the insights of students. I should see things before they do, and if I do not, they can see things I cannot.

It is time for a curmudgeonly rant.

Some schools and parents here seem to have forgotten to teach kids the basis. I am not referring to the three Rs.
 

 
What happened to speaking in hushed tones when in a shared or public space?

We already live in cramped environments in Singapore. This alone is a good reason for not talking loudly during conversations over a meal or when packed on public transport. A lack of volume control reveals a lack of self-awareness and is inconsiderate to others who do not want to be audience to your conversations.

What happened to taking care of personal property?

People routinely leave their bags and computing devices in fast food joints or coffee places. The onus is not on others to look after your stuff; it is yours to care enough to leave someone behind or to take your things with you.

There is a reason why they are called valuables — someone had to work hard to make the money so that you have that personal property. Be grateful, not careless.

What happened to taking care of shared property?

There is no learning if kids know how to return food trays in school but do not consistently do this at a mall eatery. There is no care if you use a toilet properly at home but somehow lose your aim and decency in a public restroom.

And yes, this rant is fresh. I am drafting this at a Starbucks while surrounded by people who talk loudly and who have left a handbag and two computers at their tables. There is no toilet at this establishment, but there is one a stone’s throw away. Someone decided to pee in a sink.

Maybe I should create an option in my education consultancy called Human Decency 101. But here is the sad news: If you need it, it is probably too late.
 

There are many fallouts from local shared bike company’s (OBike’s) withdrawal from the market. The one that seems to concern users is the inability to get a refund of their deposit when they first signed up.

I am not sympathetic to those users because the company offered to return the deposits last November. I know because I was also a user of those shared bikes, made a S$49 deposit, and got it back when I read the notice.

You would need to have been illiterate, blind, or deaf to miss that message. The offer was made six months ago and they have had all this time to get their money back.

Even more serious than the inability to read, see, or hear the news is an indifferent mindset. We have only ourselves to blame if the warning signs were there, but we chose to ignore them.
 

 
Something similar could be said of teachers and constant change. Rarely does a policy or practice sneak up on you. If you cooperate, collaborate, and communicate, you should sense the changes coming. You can then prepare for them by changing behaviours in advance.

We cannot expect our children and students to be have “growth mindsets” or to exhibit “grit” if we ourselves do not possess these traits and model them.

Values are more CAUGHT than they are TAUGHT.

I reflect today on what started as a Pokémon raid battle and ended up being a symbolic battle between wilful ignorance and informed decision-making.

I tweeted this a few days ago in the aftermath of an Absol raid.

Absol.

An Absol is a Pokémon that you can catch in Pokémon Go (PoGo) only in four-star level raids. This means that they cannot be caught in the wild. So when one appeared on my game’s gym radar, I made the effort to get to it.

I have since been in two Absol raid battles, but there was a common pattern to both.

Despite its rarity, the Absol does not seem to be as popular as the current legendary raid boss, Groudon. While the Groudon can attract multiple teams of 20 players each, the two Absol raids I participated in drew six and four players respectively — barely enough for narrow victories.

Groudon.

I did my homework before battling. Against an unfamiliar enemy, I got information from websites (like this), YouTube videos (like this), and the Poke Genie app.

I found out that Absol was susceptible to Pokémon that were good fighting, fairy, and bug types. I prepared a raid party to take advantage of Absol’s weaknesses.

Absol counter raid party.

At my first raid, I was one of six who cooperated to take the Absol boss down. I fought in a non-team gym and was the only one carrying my team colours. This meant I would not get the gym bonus and was unlikely to get damage bonus.

When the battle started, I noticed that my fellow battlers were using the strongest possible “brute force” Pokémon they had, e.g., legendaries like Lugia (which has psychic movesets that Absol is resistant to).

The Pokémon types and movesets might not matter very much in a group of 20, but I found out how important they were in smaller groups. I topped the damaged-inflicted list in both battles against Absol because I optimised the Pokémon types and movesets. This was despite being the unique one of six, and in my second raid, one of four in the battle group.

After the first battle, I savoured my victory quietly in a shelter nearby. However, my reflection was soon broken by a PoGo uncle arguing with a younger PoGo player. Perhaps “arguing” is the wrong word — they were just talking very loudly and kept repeating themselves.

The uncle cited what he had heard others say, what he believed in, and what always worked for him in other battles. His younger counterpart asked questions, and cited what she watched and read.

It was like Uncle Rock meeting Hard Place Girl. Neither seemed to be able to convince the other. This was a PoGo battle in which both opponents thought they were the boss, but no one was going to win.

In the end, it was a symbolic battle between wilful ignorance and informed decision-making. Both are common enough in daily life and in work. Applied in a game, wilful ignorance just hurts the player. Applied to the life and work of a teacher, for example, wilful ignorance hurts children for years to come.

It does not take playing a game like PoGo to make this realisation about wilful ignorance. It should not. But I see this still happening in our class and tutorial rooms. This strengthens my resolve to keep battling such weakness with informed decision-making in 2018. Though difficult, I am still going to try to catch ‘em all.

Like jet lag, some takeaways from my recent trip to Amsterdam only just hit me.

Take trash days for instance. I opted to stay in someone’s entire apartment and we had to take bagged trash out to the street every Tuesday and Friday. There were no trash bins on the road, but everyone seemed to understand the importance of preparing and arranging the trash responsibly.

The instructions to use the washing machine in the apartment were in Dutch. This was despite the assurance I got from owner that they would be in English. Thanks to a speedy Internet connection and phones, we got translations on the fly.

Collectively, these reminded me that some of the best ways to learn are by embedded experience, close observation, and just-in-time information.

Coffee sign.

Before my trip, I read about the differences between coffee houses vs cafés. If I wanted actual coffee, I had to visit a café. Marijuana was sold at coffee houses.

Lesson? It is one thing to read or hear about coffee houses vs cafés, it is entirely another see — and smell — the differences in person.

Bonus factoids and still open questions:

  • During my trip, I was told by a guide that Amsterdam had the highest per capita coffee drinkers. I took that as fact. Now I realise that I should have asked him which plant was involved.
  • I also discovered that quite a few cafés and eateries play reggae music. I do not know if this is a homage to pot culture.

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